Fusarium head blight (FHB) is more than irritating, it’s costly. With wheat prices at relatively healthy levels, taking a downgrade at the elevator for any reason can be frustrating.

It’s bad enough if a downgrade comes from something you can’t control – like an untimely frost at harvest causing kernel damage. But when you’re downgraded for something within your control, like FHB? Well, that’s a different level of frustration.

The maximum tolerance for FHB-damage at primary elevators is incredibly low. In No. 1 CWRS, for example, if you have 0.25% or more fusarium damaged kernels (FDK), you’re going to be downgraded. In No. 2 CWRS, it’s 0.8% FDK.

So, while lost yield is a factor with FHB, the economic losses from downgrading are a bigger consideration for farmers. Bayer internal and external market development results have found that without a fungicide application, the impact of fusarium head blight is an average yield loss of 6 bu./ac (1). Commodity price and deductions from March 2023 indicate that the average downgrade deduction is $1.63 per bushel (2), which, when looking at an 82 bu./ac. yield, can lead to a net loss of $173.44/ac.

Have a plan, be vigilant

Fusarium head blight is caused by Fusarium graminearum, a fungus that attacks the heads of cereal crops. Disease spores develop on infected crop residue and are carried by wind or rain splash to infect the head during that flowering. If untreated, FHB causes kernels to take on a pinkish hue, or shrivel and become chalky white.

To combat FHB, you must have a management plan in place, ready to go, and you have to be vigilant about crop staging because your spray window is narrow.

The ideal time to apply a preventive fungicide is at T3, during flowering. Spray between when 75% of wheat heads (on the main stem) have fully emerged and when 50% of heads are in flower. It’s tight, but doable!

This timing will not only protect your crop against FHB, it will also help to control any leaf diseases that may be present in the field so you can protect yield potential, quality and shoot for No. 1 grade at the elevator.

Bayer can help with Prosaro® PRO fungicide. With three powerful active ingredients, Prosaro PRO protects your wheat against FHB and other key leaf and head diseases, such as ergot, rusts and tan spot while maximizing yield potential.

A visual example of the start of a spray window. The head is completely exposed but just emerged from the flag leaf.
A visual example of the Optimal state. Head extended up from the flag leaf, the first flower visible.
A visual example of the Optimal +3 to 5 days. Head fully flowered/flowers falling off.

Become a fusarium head blight specialist

To become an FHB specialist, click the link to watch a YouTube video below

Cereal Fungicides: Become a FHB Specialist